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Graining and marbling

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Graining and marbling

 

The replication of marbles and fine woods using paint techniques. See also signwriting and gilding.

 

Status Endangered
Historic area of significance Europe
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 16th Century

At its height mid-Georgian to Victorian

Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50 full and part-time skilled makers

(12 companies listed on Buildingconservation.com)

Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
See above
Current no. of trainees Not known.

(Graining and marbling are covered as optional modules within NVQ Level 3 Decorative Finishing-Painting but it is unclear how many training providers will be offering this element to trainees)

Current total no. serious amateur makers
There will be many people out there working on furniture and doing paint effects/distressing etc. but there are unlikely to be many with the skills of those at a commercial level.
Current total no. of leisure makers
See above

 

History

The origins of graining and marbling date back to Ancient Egypt and it was also used extensively by the Greeks and Romans who employed decorative painters to imitate real marble. Examples of marbling including trompe l’oeil (‘trick of the eye’) scenes can be seen in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The practice of graining and marbling in the UK arose as a cost saving measure, as timber and marbles were very expensive. The replication, or faking, of marbles and fine woods using paint techniques became popular during the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods.  Many of our finest buildings and palaces have fine examples of the art. Faux finishes became particularly popular in England during the Regency period, when tabletops were painted to resemble those brought back by Napoleon from his Italian campaigns. Painted furniture became so popular that books such as ‘The Decorative Painter and Glazier’s Guide’ were written, detailing the techniques employed to create the finishes.

Graining and marbling reached its height in the 19th century, inspired by the popularity of rare and expensive tropical woods and exotic marbles, and from the fine examples of graining and marbling shown at the Great Exhibitions of London in 1851 & Paris in 1855.

Examples of graining and marbling:

  • Bolton Museum holds examples of work by Thomas Kershaw and Lesley Priestley.
  • Ham House, Wiltshire
  • V&A – holds work by John Taylor

 

Techniques

Graining is a decorative paint effect that imitates an exotic wood grain on a non-wood surface, or an inexpensive wood surface. Marbling is a similar decorative paint effect that imitates marble or stone.

The painting is carried out in thin multiple layers of transparency, the first layer being a base. A second layer of tempera or thinned paint is applied over the dry base, by means of a sponge or large brush.

Graining and marbling can be achieved using a range of specialised tools. A thick brush or ‘mottler’, fan brushes, floggers, softening brushes and texture combs are used to create various effects.

Graining – a skilled grainer would be able to recreate all the joinery joints: mitres, tenons, bolection mouldings, gunstock tenons etc. Grainers also have to study the types of grain exhibited by different species of wood; in addition the grain pattern changes depending how the wood is sawn.

Marbling – a skilled marbler would have an understanding of how different marbles are formed in nature and how the real thing would be applied. Imitation of stone work needs to follow all the joints that a master mason would use: keystones, quoins, voussoirs, mason’s mitres etc. Trompe l’oeil techniques are used for shading mouldings and carvings.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Graining
  • Marbling
  • Trompe l’oeil
  • Decorative paint effects – rag rolling, dragging, mark making etc.

Related crafts:

  • Gilding
  • Signwriting
  • Film/theatre set design

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Skills issues – Standards in the craft have fallen due to a lack of continuous training and as the numbers of highly skilled practitioners diminish. There is generally less of a focus on the higher level skills of painters and decorators.
  • Lack of training opportunities – there are no formal courses or apprenticeships in graining and marbling alone, although it is included as an optional module within Level 3 painting and decorating NVQs.
  • Lack of funding for training – it is difficult to source financial support to take on apprentices or trainees.
  • Ageing workforce – Many craftspeople are now in their 80s with no one to pass their skills on to.

 

Support organisations

  • Painter-Stainers’ Company
  • Painting & Decorating Association
  • Association of Painting Craft Teachers
  • AS Handover – supplier of materials
  • Wrights of Lymm – Supplier
  • SPAB, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
  • Salon: Annual Gathering of International Decorative Painters

 

Craftspeople currently known

Buildingconservation.com holds a list of companies who offer graining and marbling.

  • Philip Waite, Bristol
  • Paul Bailey, Portsmouth
  • Stuart Kelly, Essex
  • Ricky MacPherson, Kent
  • Gordon McGowan, Southend
  • Jeremy Tailor, Scotland
  • Stuart McDonald, Scotland
  • Mark Nevin, Scotland
  • David Lane, Scotland
  • John Townley
  • Mick Jones
  • Steven Oxley, School of Decorative Art
  • Simon Nobs, South Coast Studios
  • Robert Woodland
  • Tim Salandin
  • Cait Whitson
  • Joanne Poulton, Jo Poulton Studio
  • Theresa Meisl, Black Barn Studios
  • Walter Riley – retired
  • Jeff Chapel – retired
  • Gary Clemence – semi-retired

Companies employing two or more makers:

  • Hare & Humphreys

International makers:

  • Michel Nadai – France
  • Pierre Finkelstein – US
  • Jeff Pollastro – US
  • Shane Ralph – Ireland

William Holdgate (deceased): http://www.painting-effects.co.uk/bill/index.htm

 

Training providers

University courses 

City & Guilds of London Art School: BA (Hons) in Conservation: Stone, Wood & Decorative Surfaces

Apprenticeships 

Level 3 Apprenticeship in Painting and Decorating

Vocational training and apprenticeships

The NVQ Level 3 Diploma is an advanced qualification in painting and decoration that includes optional modules in graining and marbling. This is available at a number of colleges and training providers but it is unclear how many offer graining and marbling.

  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in decorative finishing-painting and decorating

Specialist short courses 

  • Cait Whitson runs classes in graining and marbling
  • Paint school runs short courses in decorative paint effects including graining and marbling
  • South Coast Studios Paint Effect Courses – offers online and workshop based classes

 

Other information

 

 

References

  • Mindy Drucker & Pierre Finkelstein, Recipes for Surfaces
  • Ina Brosseau Marx, Allen Marx and Robert Marx, Professional Painted Finishes
  • The Project Gutenberg EBook of Graining and Marbling, by Frederick Maire: Downloadable as an e-book at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/43500/43500-h/43500-h.htm
  • Wikipedia: Graining https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graining
  • Winters, Wendi. “America’s most beautiful door is undergoing a Revolutionary change”. capitalgazette.com. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  • Oestreicher, Lisa, ‘Imitation Timber Graining in the 18th and 19th Centuries’, The Building Conservation Directory 2014
  • DVD by Walter Riley, Oak Graining: quartered and oak over-graining

Wheeling

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Wheeling

 

Using a wheeling machine or ‘English Wheel’ to create compound curves in sheet metal, usually for car body work or aviation. See also coachbuilding.

 

Status Endangered
Historic area of significance Found in manufacturing centres in the UK e.g. alongside car manufacturers etc.
Area currently practised As above
Origin in the UK Late C19th early C20th
Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50 companies with the skills in house

These would be companies with the skills to build a whole car body from start to finish.

Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Manufacturers may still have them and use them occasionally.
Current no. of trainees The Heritage Skills Academy apprenticeship (coachbuilding and trim) programme includes all aspects of heritage coachbuilding.
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Not known
Current total no. of leisure makers
Not known

 

History

The earliest versions of the wheeling machine were thought to have been used in France in the 1500s to make armour. However, it was the 1800s in Britain that saw them in wide use in manufacturing. They were used for a wide range of applications where a double, or compound, curve was needed in sheet metal.

By the early 20th Century the car was becoming popular and the wheeling machine was a low cost way to produce the curves needed for car bodywork. Skilled coachbuilders and panel beaters would produce panels for high end cars. Ranalah, Besco (FJ Edwards) and Kendricks were some of the main companies producing wheeling machines.

With the increase in aviation came the need for more bespoke panels and most of the skills moved from coach built cars to making aircraft.

Up until the 1980s, the panel beater would have been considered a skilled craftsman but as lower cost production methods became available, such as mass- produced pressed components, fibreglass and high-tech composites, the use of wheeling machines declined.

Today they are still in use in classic car restoration and specialist coachbuilding.

 

Techniques

A wheeling machine is like a rolling hammer that stretches and forms sheet metal into complex curves. It is a manual process that relies heavily on the skills of the operator, no electric, pneumatic or hydraulic power is used. The final results are dependent on the skills of the craftsperson manipulating the material.

Its key advantage is that it can be used to produce many different, bespoke panels without having to make up a die for use in a stamping press. It is therefore very useful for low-volume and specialist production such as classic car restoration and sports car production.

Using a wheel is a process that gives the metal a smooth or mirror finish, which can be difficult to achieve with other techniques.

The machine is shaped like a large, closed letter “C”. At the ends of the C, there are two wheels. The wheel on the top is called the rolling wheel, while the wheel on the bottom is called the anvil wheel. The operator of the machine passes the sheet metal between the anvil wheel and the rolling wheel. This process stretches the material and, as it stretches, it forms a convex surface over the anvil wheel.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Aviation body work
  • Car body work
  • Sculpture – wheeling has been used by contemporary artists to create sculptures

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: Modern production techniques such as mass-produced pressed components, fibreglass and high-tech composites are cheaper and more efficient for large production runs.
  • Market issues: It is a time consuming process to make a handmade panel meaning that it is less cost-effective than modern techniques.
  • Market issues: Whilst the market has declined, there is still a niche but high-end market for the skills.
  • Skills issues: It takes a lot of time to learn the skill to a high level. Skilled panel beaters would have taken years to become skilled in their craft.
  • Lack of available equipment: The wheeling machines are expensive and rare. There are some companies now making smaller versions but don’t always produce the same results. Ranalah have started producing cast iron machines again in small numbers.
  • Ageing skilled practitioners: most people with the higher-level skills in companies such as Aston Martin are reaching retirement age.

 

Support organisations

  • Heritage Skills Academy
  • Association of Heritage Engineers
  • Aston Martin Heritage Trust

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Geoff Moss – MPH motor panels
  • Roach Manufacturing
  • James & Bob Smith – RS Panels
  • Dom Chinea – trainee and owner of Ranalah Ltd.
  • Clive Smart & team – Shapecraft
  • Toby Southan – Toby Southan Metal Craft
  • Nick Finburgh – Classics Autos
  • Andy Hunter – Envisage motor group
  • John Smith – CKL Developments
  • Jesse Morris – apprenticed at Aston Martin 1988-92
  • Laurant Amman – Storik Ltd
  • Steve Parmiter – Atelier Ugo, formally Roach Manufacturing and British Aerospace
  • Mark Cole – Mark Cole Metalforming Ltd
  • Darren Edwards – Thornton Restorations
  • Jack Lant – Prestige Coachworks
  • Daniel Clazy – Longford Coachworks
  • Miles and Andy – Ashley and James Coachbuilding
  • Gary Yates – Mouland and Yates
  • Victor Mouland – Mouland and Yates
  • James Mcmahon – Empacombe Classic Panels
  • Matthew Warburton – Aluminiumart

 

Companies that employ two or more makers:

  • Coventry Metalcraft Ltd.- Martin Holt, Steven Lobley, Toby Courts, Matthew Godsell,  Lyndon Atherton, Sam Holden
  • Bodylines – Alan Pointer & team
  • Aston Martin Works

 

Training providers

The Heritage Skills Academy provides apprenticeship opportunities in a wide range of heritage engineering skills. They have two training pathways:

  • Level 3 Apprenticeship, Mechanical Technician
  • Level 3 Apprenticeship, Coachbuilding & Trim Technician

 

Other information

 

References

  • Dom Chinea, The English Wheel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51zN22KUYyY&t=0s
  • Dom Chinea, Stripping down the Ranalah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mWZJb9sMyE
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_wheel
  • An American’s View of the English Wheel by Kent White (DVD)
  • Advanced Techniques for the English Wheel by Kent White (Series of DVDs)
  • Ron Fournier (1990). Metal Fabricator’s Handbook. ISBN 0-89586-870-9.
  • Ron Fournier (1989). Sheet Metal Handbook. ISBN 0-89586-757-5.
  • Tim Remus (1999). Ultimate Sheet Metal Fabrication. ISBN 0-9641358-9-2.
  • Tim Remus (2003). Advanced Sheet Metal Fabrication. ISBN 1-929133-12-X.
  • Robinson, W.A. Livesey (2006). The Repair of Vehicle Bodies. ISBN 978-0-7506-6753-1.

Traditional wooden boat building

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Traditional wooden boat building

 

The building, restoration and repair of boats made from wood using planked construction or skin-on-frame, mechanical fixings and traditional finishes. See also coracle making, curragh making, spar, oar and mast making, sail making, and boat building (modern).

 

Status Endangered
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised Across the UK but heavily concentrated in the south of England.
Origin in the UK Bronze Age
Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50

These are boat builders who are carrying out all aspects of traditional boat building including building new boats as their full-time occupation.

(Estimate based on 2023 survey carried out by the WBTA and Heritage Crafts. See Other Information)

Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
50-100

(Estimate based on 2023 survey carried out by the WBTA and Heritage Crafts. See Other Information)

Current no. of trainees 50+

(Students at the boat building schools will study traditional boat building alongside contemporary techniques such as laminated wood and GRP)

Current total no. serious amateur makers
11-20

(Estimate based on 2023 survey carried out by the WBTA and Heritage Crafts. See Other Information)

Current total no. of leisure makers
Not known but there is a keen interest in wooden boat building amongst retired and hobby makers.

 

History

The earliest known boats are log-boats or dugouts with examples from Holland and Denmark dating from about 7000 BC, and the earliest plank-built boats were found in Egypt and date from about 2600 BC. Early plank-built boats were made by stitching or sewing the planks, but the Egyptians developed edge-fastening by mortises and tenons. The frame eventually developed into the rigid frame-skeleton, covered in planking, of the familiar carvel-build (‘skeleton first’ construction). In the north, hulls were built up of thin planking overlapping at the edges which were ‘clenched’ by dowels or iron rivets (‘clinker-construction’) with ribs inserted afterwards to keep the hull in shape (‘shell first’ construction).

Historically, there were many regional forms of boat building in the UK.

See also: Historic England Ships and Boats: Prehistory to 1840.

 

Techniques

  • Clinker construction
  • Carvel construction
  • Skin on frame construction
  • Multi skin construction
  • Building ‘by eye’
  • Lofting
  • Finishing
  • Decking
  • Caulking

 

Local forms

There are numerous regional styles of boats.

The Traditional Boat Building Survey 2023 found that there was a particular concern about the loss of regional boat types and that skilled practitioners were heavily concentrated in the south of England. There is a concern for boat builders based in Scotland (with particular references to practitioners on Orkney and East and West coasts) and other parts of the UK.

 

Sub-crafts

Allied crafts:

  • Spar, oar and mast making
  • Rigging
  • Sail making
  • Heritage engineering
  • Internal carpentry and fit-out
  • Signwriting / Gilding
  • Ship’s carving
  • Designing for traditional methods
  • Block making

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

Summary of findings from the Symposium on Traditional Wooden Boat Building 2022 and the Traditional Wooden Boat Building Survey 2023:

  • Loss of regional boat types – Boat builders are heavily concentrated in the south of England, which increases the risk of losing other regional boat types and their associated skills and knowledge.
  • Loss of traditional skills – Due to market pressures and efficiency, most boat builders will (understandably) carry out both traditional skills and modern construction methods. However this could lead to some skills such as ‘building by eye’ and other hand skills becoming increasingly scarce.
  • Threats to UK maritime cultural heritage and a lack of government commitment to heritage skills and intangible cultural heritage in the UK – Shipwrighting and the restoration of large boats was cited as an area of concern with most of the skills concentrated in one or two businesses. It was felt that this, in addition to the loss of regional boat types, could pose an ongoing threat to the maritime cultural heritage of the UK. See also Shipwrighting.
  • Training routes – Boat building is well served for college based training with a healthy number of graduates. However, it was felt that these opportunities were not available to everyone and that there was a limited amount of funding to support those on lower incomes. There could also be more options for training including more apprenticeships and practical ‘hands-on’ work experience.
  • Lack of diversity in the sector – Most respondents were male (89%) and aged over 40 (70%); the dominant age category is 50+ (58%).
  • Sourcing raw materials – including timber, copper nails, roves etc. This has been further exacerbated by Brexit.
  • Business costs and overheads – energy, premises costs, high costs of labour and materials
  • Shrinking market for traditional boats – only the wealthy can afford to buy or own a boat
  • Loss of boatyards – waterside frontages and workshop rents have become prohibitively expensive
  • Recruitment and retention – recruiting people with the necessary skills, experience and the ability to work to a commercial timescale is becoming a problem. Difficulty in recruiting apprentices was also cited as an issue. Low rates of pay can mean that it is difficult to make it a viable occupation, particularly in the south of England where accommodation and cost of living are expensive.
  • Restoration and repair – there is an increasing market for restoration and repair, rather than building new boats
  • Lack of practical education in school.

 

Support organisations

  • Wooden Boatbuilder’s Trade Association
  • British Marine Inland Boatbuilding
  • Anglia Boatbuilders Association
  • The GalGael Trust
  • The Worshipful Company of Shipwright
  • Pioneer Sailing Trust
  • National Historic Ships UK
  • Women in Boatbuilding

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Training providers

Accredited taught courses

  • International Boatbuilding Training College – Lowestoft
  • Falmouth Marine School
  • Boatbuilding Academy

Apprenticeships

There are boat building apprenticeships available but these tend to focus primarily on modern boat building methods such as laminate/composite materials and GRP.

Boatbuilding Level 3 Apprenticeship: Building boats such as yachts, workboats and superyachts, and refitting and repairing existing boats.

On-the-job training

Many boat builders will train on–the-job alongside experienced boat builders. This may follow an apprenticeship or a college based course in order to gain work based experience and develop specialist skills.

 

Other information

The Wooden Boat Builders Trade Association and Heritage Crafts have been working together to consult the boat building trade. A Symposium on Traditional Boat Building was held in Bristol in October 2022 and this was followed by a Survey of Traditional Wooden Boat Building in January 2023.

Numbers of practitioners

90 people responded to the survey. Of these 30 described themselves as full-time traditional boat builders and 31 as doing it as part of their work.

When asked how many traditional boat builders they knew of, most respondents gave a figure of between 5 and 50. From this we have estimated that the number of full-time boat builders to be between 21-50 and those doing it as part of their work as 50-100.

How endangered is traditional wooden boat building?

73% of survey respondents describe traditional wooden boat building as either ‘Endangered’ or ‘Critically Endangered’. Of the remainder, 20% describe the craft as viable, with the rest suggesting it’s viable depending on location and which skills are being considered.

The majority of attendees at the Symposium agreed that Traditional Wooden Boat Building be considered as distinct from boat building as a whole.

 

References

 

Straw hat making

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Straw hat making

 

The making of straw hats and boaters including the stitching of straw plait or braid, using a hat block to create the shape and finishing. See also straw hat plaiting, hat making, millinery, hat block making.

 

Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance Luton
East End of London
Area currently practised Luton

There are one or two people in Luton still able to machine-stitch straw and a few individual hat makers. More makers are able to hand stitch, but do not due to time and cost

Origin in the UK Machines for stitching were introduced in the 1870s

The dates for hand stitched straw hats are unclear but they are documented in pictorial sources from the 13th Century.

Current no. of professionals (main income) 5-10 individual full and part-time makers using hand and machine stitching.
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Included in figure above
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Unknown
Current total no. of leisure makers
Unknown

 

History

Before the introduction of the sewing machine in the 1870s plait hats (also called strip straw) were constructed by hand stitching. There were two main methods of hand stitching:

  • Overlapping then stitching the length of plait into the rough shape of the hat being made.
  • Stitching the plait together edge to edge (remaille).
  • When overlapping the plait, sewers often used a back stitch using specific millinery (straw) needles and a variety of types of threads.
  • The shape must be sewn to the required head-size.

After the introduction of a sewing machine capable of stitching plait, and with the growth in size and number of factories, hand-sewing decreased and became more associated with model hats. Much of the factory work was undertaken by home workers who were supplied with a machine and received deliveries of work to be completed each week.

There were different types of machines, some only stitching straw as a flat sheet, or stitching from the brim in towards the crown. There were visible stitch machines, including a zigzag-stitch machine introduced in the 1920s and concealed stitch (box) machines. The Willcox and Gibbs 17-Guinea machine is the most well-known but the same chain stitch machines with similar configurations were made by other makers including Grossman and Singer.

With the introduction of ‘endless’ man-made fibres in the early 1900s, machine stitching increased in popularity. From the 1980s the introduction of sinamay fabric and cheaper hoods meant sewing skills began to die. New machinists were no longer trained and outworking decreased. As the industry declined in Luton and hat factories closed, many machines were disposed of or left in factories and the homes of outworkers. These are the ones that are now available.

New machines specifically designed to sew plait or braid into a hat are only available from China. The alternative source is to find an old machine and set it up with a motor or treadle and dedicated workbench. Many machines appear on selling sites but not all are suitable for stitching straw. Machines were used in hat manufacture to complete a wide range of production processes. Spares including needles are no longer available in the UK, the specialist machine repair companies having closed as the hat factories closed.

 

Techniques

The process for a factory-based operation and millinery studio are very similar but will vary slightly according to the design and materials used.

A hat can be sewn on a flatbed domestic machine into panels which are then assembled into a design, however this was not the method used in wider production. Traditionally sewing the hat would start at the top centre of the hat crown (the button) and spiral outwards to form the crown and then the brim. According to some designs, gussets (gores) might be added to the shape and for other designs the hat was made with a double brim.

Stitching straw plait:

  • The plait (handmade) is checked, damped, wound onto a plait winder.
  • A button (top centre crown) is created either by hand or machine (according to the design).
  • Sewing – the process involves matching the hat to the design hat block checking both size and shape.
  • Creating the shape – some hats are created free-form, the intended shape develops without a block.
  • Finishing – the remaining processes of blocking, stiffening and finishing are the same as those used for hat making and millinery.

Stitching braid:

  • Sewing – the processes are the same as for stitching straw plait, but according to the type the braid may not require damping. When using a zigzag-stitch machine, the plait or braid are stitched together edge to edge.
  • Shaping – the braid can be stitched free-form without reference to a hat block or matched to the block.
  • Finishing – the processes are the same as for other forms of hat making.

Hand stitching:

  • Sewing – the initial processes of preparing a button and damping if required are the same as when machine stitching plaits or braids. The plait or braid is either sewn together by overlapping or edge to edge to form a hat shape. Plait or braid may be stitched into filigree patterns.
  • Shaping – while most hats are made by matching the shape against a block, the shape can also be formed by working free-hand and letting the shape develop organically.
  • Finishing – the processes are the same as for other forms of hat making.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Straw hat plaiting
  • Hat block making
  • Bleaching and dyeing
  • Millinery
  • Hat making

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Access to machines: Machines are no longer made in the UK and those that were in educational establishments have been removed.
  • Repair and maintenance of machines: Spare parts are not available in the UK.
  • Market issues: Effects of Brexit affecting European trade and import from Europe.
  • Competition from overseas markets: There are now only one or two people in Luton still able to machine-stitch straw and a few individual hat makers. The skills are being lost to producers in other countries.
  • Decline in skills: there are now only a few people left with the skills to make straw hats and few opportunities to pass on their skills.
  • Market issues: Rising prices for materials/supplies.
  • Training issues: Lack of apprenticeships/training within college courses.
  • Courses: Lack of availability of specific courses due to lack of machines.

 

Support organisations

  • The British Hat Guild
  • British Millinery Association

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Lucy Barlow – 17-Guinea machine and hand stitch
  • Harvy Santos – Chinese and hand stitch
  • Jane Smith, using a flatbed machine and hand stitch
  • Bridget Bailey – hand stitch
  • Justin Smith – hand stitch
  • Veronica Main – hand stitch
  • Rachel Frost – hand stitch

Note: There are other milliners who are able to hand sew strip straw, but are not currently using the technique.

 

Training providers

There are no training providers for straw hat making including sewing straw plait. There are a number of opportunities and short courses to learn hat blocking techniques with straw and sinamay.

 

Other information

 

 

References

  • Evidence for straw hats in the 13th Century: Pierpont Morgan Library, MSS 638, folio 17 v, reproduced in Charles Freeman, Luton and the Hat Industry, Luton Museum, 1953.
  • The history of straw plait in Herefordshire http://www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk/data/occupations/straw-plait.htm

Historic stained glass window making

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Historic stained glass window making (large scale traditional and historic windows)

 

The designing and making of painted and leaded stained glass windows on a large scale for architectural settings, typically for use in historic buildings and churches. N.B. This is distinct from contemporary or architectural stained glass where windows are generally made from a single sheet of glass and coloured with enamels. See also stained glass and glass painting.

.

 

Status Endangered

The making of work on all scales is threatened, but particularly the complex skills in designing and making painted and leaded stained glass windows on a large scale for architectural settings

Historic area of significance UK and Europe
Area currently practised UK wide
Origin in the UK 12th Century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50

(See other information)

Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
11-20

(See other information)

Current no. of trainees 11-20 training with accredited members of the BSMGP (see other information)

There are 9 post graduate and degree courses on offer in the UK. None are dedicated to stained glass.

Current total no. serious amateur makers
n/a

Stained glass windows of this type will only be installed by professional makers

Current total no. of leisure makers
n/a

Stained glass windows of this type will only be installed by professional makers

 

History

The German monk, Theophilus wrote Diversarum Artium Schedula, a manual on medieval stained glass making in the twelfth century; it is one of the earliest sources of knowledge on the matter. As stained windows were a means of biblical story telling, the Reformation had an effect on the craft. With the decline in religious zeal and symbolism, glass painters lost their most important source of work, whilst this left glaziers busy replacing windows. Coloured glass does not fade but paint can be lost and glass corrodes over time, so much work currently goes into the conservation and repair of old stained glass.

Stained glass was made by mixing metallic oxides into the container in which the glass was melted. This was then blown and turned into sheets. Window designs were drawn out to scale, glass shapes were cut to size with a hot bar of iron and smoothed out with a ‘grozing iron’. The individual pieces of coloured glass were decorated and detailed with paint. Once painted, the glass was placed in the kiln, thereby melting the paint to the glass. After this, the glass was laid out over the pattern and bound together. Each differently coloured pane of glass was bound with lead strips, making a well-defined black outline. Size and weight were taken into consideration for transportation and assembled in the place of construction. Iron bars were used to support them. Changes in the style of painted glass can be seen to reflect changes in architectural styles. With the Gothic influence of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, painted glass became more detailed and windows larger. Yet there were technological advancements as well as cultural shifts. In around 1300, it was discovered that white glass could be stained different shades of yellow, which meant that one pane need not entirely be the same colour. This also allowed for more detailed painting. By the mid-sixteenth century colour was introduced with enamels to emulate fine art painters. English glass painters were almost entirely dependent on enamelling as the method of colouring glass (because the skills to make coloured blown sheets were partly lost) which also meant that lead strips were no longer needed to the same extent as they previously were. During the Gothic Revival the skills were rediscovered. Some crafts people today still use the heavy leaded technique for desired outcome.

The basic techniques have remained the same.

 

Techniques

  • Mouth blown sheet glass making – hand blown or ‘Antique’ glass is the standard glass used for stained glass windows. It is created by creating a glass bubble, piercing both sides making a cylinder, and then cutting the cylinder and letting it unfurl and cool flat. The glass can be made with a variety of colours and textures. This is now an extinct craft in the UK.
  • Cartooning – creating a full size drawing of the window.
    Selecting and cutting the glass – glass shapes are cut to size with a hot bar of iron and smoothed out with a ‘grozing iron’.
  • Painting – glass is painted using a variety of different tools and techniques, then kilned so that the paint melts to the glass.
  • Leading – the glass is laid out over the pattern and bound together with lead strips, making a well-defined black outline. It can be reinforced with bars.
  • Cementing – Cement is then used to secure the panel and fill any remaining gaps in the lead, adding stability and waterproofing to the joints.
    Installation

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

Skills in designing and cartooning for stained glass in historic buildings take time to develop and traditionally these skills are passed from master to apprentice or teacher to student over years. There are specific challenges in designing for traditional windows such as: how light interacts with the architecture; choice of lead sizes (for structure and aesthetics); the quantity and quality of paint used to filter the light; designing windows that use the shapes of the glass pieces and position of tie-bars to maximise the physical strength of a window constructed with lead, which is a metal that softens over a long period of time.

Removing and installing new and historic leaded panels in large stone windows requires specialist skills in stone and metalwork. There are a handful of studios capable of this highly specialised work.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Loss of skills: The construction of large scale traditional painted, stained and leaded windows made with antique glass for buildings is in dangerous decline.
  • Ageing practitioners: Skilled artists and craftspeople who are skilled ‘masters’ are aging and retiring with few opportunities for apprentices to learn in studios. The British Society of Master Glass Painters has 61 accredited members (Fellows and Associates). A survey amongst them completed this month with 39 respondents showed that 41% will be retiring in the next 10 years and that 10% have already retired.
  • Lack of opportunities for skilled makers to pass on their skills: The survey also showed that 59% of masters (post formal education) had benefited from working in a studio or completing a formal apprenticeship. Today only 18% of the respondents are in a position to pass on their knowledge and skills. However, a further 33% indicated that they would like to offer apprenticeships if the funding was available.
  • Decline in educational opportunities and courses: In the last thirty years there has been a serious decline in the number of dedicated courses for traditional stained glass at art schools and universities. There is vital outreach work to be done, as young people don’t know there is a career pathway into stained glass, and it isn’t on any education curriculums. Closure of all higher-level courses that solely focus on stained glass is a shocking fact. Even colleges and universities that offer glass courses, such as UCA in Farnham, and the University of Sunderland don’t offer traditional stained glass as an option. It has become something of a fringe activity, often being absorbed into broader studio glass and ceramics curriculums. The latest survey amongst accredited members of the Society confirmed that 67% of them had completed formal stained glass training to higher education level or other artistic training to degree level. However, 74% of respondents said that the courses that had taken them into the profession no longer exist and the remaining respondents were not sure of the status of their courses. Further research by the British Society of Master Glass Painters revealed that only Swansea College of Art is teaching a full curriculum of stained glass at higher education level. Some core skills such as taking templates, laying out a drawing for a window, designing, cartooning, painting, staining, glazing and fittings windows are rarely being taught.
  • Lack of training and employment opportunities with larger companies: Established studios such as Chapel Studio and Godard & Gibbs, which used to employ and train many crafts workers, have closed.
  • Relevance in today’s world: Historic buildings such as churches are financially challenged and not commissioning many new works of art. The number of commissions are a fraction of those commissioned through the Victorian era and the post-war period. New buildings don’t incorporate traditionally made windows because they don’t meet current building regulations.

 

Support organisations

  • British Society of Master Glass Painters
  • The Glass Society

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Training providers

Postgraduate and degree courses 

There are 9 post graduate and degree courses remaining in the UK for students wishing to make a career from glass. Most of these only offer stained glass as a module.

Swansea College of Art is currently the only course in the country that offers the opportunity of working with glass on an architectural scale as well as creating gallery based work. It was established in 1932 under the tutelage of Howard Martin, who also set up the only stained glass studio at that time in Wales, Celtic Studios. During the 70s, 80s and 90s Swansea was internationally renowned, attracting students from Europe, the USA, Australia and Japan.

Apprenticeships 

There are plans for a Level 4 apprenticeship scheme (approved in September 2021 but not yet operating) at the Swansea School of Art.

 

Other information

This data is from a 2023 survey of Fellows & Associates of the British Society of Master Glass Painters:

39 people responded to the survey. All respondents are working at the highest professional level in the craft.

  • Full time makers – 77% said it was their main income
  • Part time makers – 23% said it was part of their income
  • Professional experience – 93% of respondents have been working in the craft for over 20 years and 42% for over 40 years. These decades of experience mean that the respondents are well placed to comment on the changes in the craft, but this also demonstrates a risk in that just 7% have been practising for 10-20 years and none  have been practising for 50-10 years.
  • Masters reaching retirement age – 41% will be retiring in the next 10 years and 10% have already retired.

Passing on skills to the next generation:

  • 59% of masters (post formal education) had benefited from working in a studio or completing a formal apprenticeship. Today only 18% of the respondents are in a position to pass on their knowledge and skills. However, a further 33% indicated that they would like to offer apprenticeships if the funding was available.
  • 67% of masters had completed formal stained glass training to higher education level or other artistic training to degree level. However, 74% of respondents said that the courses that had taken them into the profession no longer exist and the remaining respondents were not sure of the status of their courses.

 

References

Spar making

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Spar making

 

The making of cleft hazel spars and liggers for use in thatching. See also thatching and coppicing.

 

Status Endangered
Historic area of significance UK wide
Area currently practised UK wide (but concentrated in areas with remaining viable coppice and a high concentration of thatched properties such as Hampshire, Sussex, Wiltshire, Dorset etc.)
Origin in the UK Modern thatched buildings date from the 13th Century but there is evidence of thatch being used since the Bronze Age.
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1-5 full-time spar makers

(Based on a survey carried out by the NSMT in March 2023)

Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
21-50 part-time spar makers

(Based on a survey carried out by the NSMT in March 2023)

Current no. of trainees Not known

All thatching apprentices will learn to make spars for their own use, but will not necessarily go on to make spars.

Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers

 

History

Thatching and coppicing are two heritage crafts that have ancient origins and have become interdependent. Wooden spars cut from coppiced hazel are used to fix thatch to existing coat-work, creating multiple layers of thatch. Spars are pointed on both ends and twisted to form a ‘staple’ that is driven into the thatch to secure it in place. Liggers are split hazel rods of various lengths which are used to hold the outer layer of thatch down near the top and often laid in a decorative pattern.

All thatchers will know how to make their own spars but most will source hazel spars from a local coppice worker. Traditionally spars are one of a range of cleft coppice products, including hurdles, fencing and charcoal, which are produced by coppice workers in order to make a viable income.

In the 1990s the remaining spar makers were almost all older and retired or semi-retired and making spars at a low price as a supplementary income. As a result of this thatchers did not expect to pay more, or weren’t prepared to pay more, and younger makers were consequently not interested in taking up the craft. As spar makers retired, supply became less reliable and the gap was filled by more reliable imports that at the time were approximately the same price. Many thatchers started relying on these pre-twisted spars and some who have started thatching since may not have used or even twisted fresh English spars.

This decline in the market for UK produced spars in addition to a decreasing demand for hazel hurdles has led to a decline in the amount of hazel coppice in active rotation. Neglected coppice will not produce hazel of a quality suitable for making spars and it takes a number of rotations to restore a coppice. Many are now being restored for their biodiversity value but this is a slow process and cannot readily respond to the current demand for spars.

During the Covid pandemic in 2019-20, the supply of spars from Poland dramatically declined and thatchers are now looking to UK coppiced hazel for spars again. This has led to an increase in the price of spars and demand is outstripping supply.

Steel rods and wire ties are now often used in place of spars and liggers. In some cases plastic spars are also used, but these are not considered as adequate replacements for natural fixings.

A survey carried out but the National Society of Master Thatchers (NSMT) in 2023 found that the average use of spars per thatcher is around 40,000 a year. There are currently around 800 thatchers and so the NSMT have put a conservative estimate of around 25-30 million spars a year needed to maintain a sustainable supply.

 

Techniques

Hazel is grown and harvested on a 7 year rotation to produce a sustainable crop of straight poles which are used to make the twisted spars and liggers that secure the thatch.

Spar gadds (hazel sticks cut to length for spar making) are split into multiple spars using a billhook and pointed on both ends.

Speed and accuracy are the key to successful spar making and a full time skilled spar maker can make 1000 spars a day.

 

Local forms

There are various regional styles of thatch but most long-straw or reed thatched roofs in the UK will use spars.

Highland thatch also uses hazel for spars and other fixings.

 

Sub-crafts

  • Ligger making – Split hazel or willow rods used to form a decorative pattern on ridges and around the edge of long straw roofs.

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Supply of raw materials: Decline in the demand for spars due to imports led to a decline in the active management of coppiced woodland. Hazel spars and liggers are often replaced by steel, wire or plastic fixings.
  • Decline in skills: Competition from imported spars led to a rapid decline in the number of spar makers in the UK.
  • Market issues: Whilst demand is increasing, there may not be a sufficient supply of good quality coppiced hazel to meet demand.
  • Training issues: There is a lack of training for coppice workers to make spars.
  • Market issues: Established relationships between thatchers and coppice workers have been broken and some thatchers are not able to secure a reliable supply.
  • Small business issues: It is difficult to make a viable income solely from making spars.

 

Support organisations

  • National Society of Master Thatchers
  • National Coppice Federation
  • Thatch Advice Centre

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Chris Cowell, New Forest Coppice Products
  • Ivan Parsons
  • Charlie Potter

The Coppice Products Database gives a list of coppice workers who make spars.

 

Training providers

There are currently no formal training opportunities to learn spar making.

Apprenticeships and on-the-job training

The National Society of Master Thatchers offer a Thatching apprenticeship scheme which is supported by a mentoring scheme. Apprentices are employed by an experienced NSMT member and will be trained to have the skills and knowledge required to become competent in their craft, including spar making.

Short courses

Chris Cowell, New Forest Coppice Products offers short courses in spar making.

 

Other information

 

 

References

  • Marjorie Sanders and Roger Angold, Thatches and Thatching: A Handbook for Owners, Thatchers and Conservators, Crowood Press 2012.